30 May 2008
James Hoyt (Scott Speedman) had it all planned out: Attend a friend's wedding, propose to his girlfriend Kristen (Liv Tyler), spend a romantic night with her at his family's remote vacation home. He didn't plan for Kristen refusing his proposal, creating the ultimate awkward situation when they reach the old house for what he thought would be a celebration of their own.
The opening minutes are crucial to The Strangers, the debut from writer-director Bryan Bertino. The protagonists in most horror movies come in groups of vapid teenagers or random people thrown together for the first time. The history between James and Kristen gives The Strangers a lived-in feel that makes the terrifying events that unfold seem not so farfetched.
At about 4 a.m. there comes a knock at the front door. A girl (Gemma Ward) asks, "Is Tamara home?" No, James and Kristen reply. She is persistent. "Are you sure?"
21 May 2008
A lot can happen in a couple decades. Steven Spielberg won a pair of Oscars. George Lucas made his much-maligned Star Wars prequel trilogy. Harrison Ford has reached retirement age for most Americans. Now, the director, executive producer and star, respectively, have reunited for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, a movie that is far from their best work but good, brainless fun nonetheless.
From the moment we see Ford in silhouette as he places that signature fedora atop his head and John Williams teases us with his indelible theme (the one you’re probably hearing in your head or humming aloud as you read this), nothing else matters.
At 65, he’s seven years older than Sean Connery was when he played Indy’s father in 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. But it is of little consequence. He's still spry enough to be believable as an action hero and his sardonic wit remains intact. Ford simply is Indiana Jones, and as this movie proves, he always will be.
16 May 2008
It has been a year for the four Pevensie children at home in England, a millennium and more for the inhabitants of the magical land of Narnia, and two and a half years for anyone in our world waiting for The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, the sequel to 2005's The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Peter (William Moseley), Susan (Anna Popplewell), Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and Lucy (Georgie Henley) have grown up a great deal since their first adventure, when they defeated the evil White Witch and became kings and queens of Narnia. Best of all, director Andrew Adamson has matured just as much as a filmmaker.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was a fairy tale; Prince Caspian is a war movie, albeit in a mostly bloodless, PG-type of way. It is a darker, grimmer tale with a militaristic bent reminiscent of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. It doesn't reach the heights of that cinematic landmark, but it is not a stretch to say it is the best fantasy film in the nearly five years since its release.
09 May 2008
How far the Wachowski Brothers have fallen. It wasn't so long ago—1999, in fact—that they were the hottest thing in the entertainment world. The Matrix revolutionized and energized not only action movies but filmmaking in general, expanding the limits of what can be done with technology and making Keanu Reeves cool beyond all reason—"whoa," indeed.
But then, four years later, came the sequels: The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions. Andy and Larry Wachowski crashed back to Earth with a deafening thud, brought down by the weight of their own pretensions and, ironically, the technology that helped them make their names in the first place. Much like the Star Wars prequels, chapters two and three of the Matrix saga are perfect examples of what not to do with CGI. The Wachowskis allowed the effects to become the star to the detriment of everything else.
01 May 2008
Let me get this straight: Having been taken prisoner by guerrillas in Afghanistan, with the resources and knowledge at his disposal to build from scratch one of the deadliest missiles the world has ever seen, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) decides to make his daring escape by building himself a big iron suit? I suppose you have to give him points for thinking outside of the box. It's also pretty darn effective, equipped as it is with flamethrowers, missiles and the ability to fly—sort of.
Iron Man, another Marvel property, doesn't have the instant name recognition of Spider-Man, X-Men, Superman, Batman or even Fantastic Four. That's about to change thanks to this film by Jon Favreau, which kicks off the summer movie season and should become 2008's first blockbuster.